The approach of a circular economy holds significant potentials but also hurdles for different industries and products. These differences, however, are so far not taken into account systematically. This paper deals with the circular economy potential of one specific industry – the carpet industry, that – as of now – has low material recycling rates but a high resource intensity. The paper wants to promote and strengthen circular economy activities and outline barriers as well as approaches to overcome them.
Focussing on the EU market, it analyses current material flows including end-of-life (EoL) treatment patterns as well as existing policy frameworks. In this paper, three scenarios of carpet production are compared regarding their material footprints: a nylon carpet with 100 per cent virgin fibres, another one with only 50 per cent virgin fibres and 50 per cent recycled fibres and a third carpet made entirely out of recycled fibres. Focussing on the economic and environmental potentials of circular alternatives, the paper argues that the increase of recycling rates alone will not be beneficial but could rather lead to higher environmental burdens, if the products do not undergo significant design changes (e.g. mono-material carpets or a separation layer between different materials). Additionally, such changes need to be accompanied by adjusted policy frameworks in order to make a circular carpet industry a viable option – e.g. extended producer responsibilities (EPR) systems.
The complete article by Dr. Henning Wilts Jana Nicolas (both Research Unit Circular Economy at the Wuppertal Institute), Monika Wirges, and Klaus Wiesen (both formely employed at the Wuppertal Institute) can be found online via the following link.